26.7 C
Friday, April 19, 2024

Hollywood actress Louise Fletcher dies at 88

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Louise Fletcher, the late-blooming star whose riveting performance as the cruel and calculating Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” set a new standard for movie villains and won her an Oscar, died hours later. age 88.

Fletcher died in her sleep surrounded by family at her home in Montdurausse, France, her agent David Shaul told The Associated Press on Friday. No cause was given.

Having put her career on hold for years to raise children, Fletcher was in her early 40s and little known when she was cast opposite Jack Nicholson in the 1975 film by Miloš Forman, who had admired her work the previous year in director Robert . Altman’s “Thieves Like Us”. Little did she know at the time that many other prominent stars, including Anne Bancroft, Ellen Burstyn and Angela Lansbury, had turned her down.

“I was the last person cast,” she recalled in a 2004 interview.

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” became the first film since 1934’s “It Happened One Night” to win Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay.

Clutching her Oscar at the 1976 ceremony, Fletcher told the audience, “It looks like you all hate me.”

She then addressed her deaf parents in Birmingham, Alabama, speaking and using sign language: “I want to thank you for teaching me to have a dream. You see my dream come true.”

After a moment of silence, thunderous applause followed.

Later that night, Forman made a tongue-in-cheek comment to Fletcher and her co-star Jack Nicholson: “Now we’re all going to be colossal flops.”

At least in the short term, he was right.

Forman went on to direct “Hair,” a film version of the hit Broadway musical that failed to capture the appeal of the stage version. Nicholson directed and starred in “Goin’ South,” generally considered one of his worst films. Fletcher has signed on for “Exorcist II: The Heretic,” the ill-conceived sequel to the landmark original.

Far more than her male peers, Fletcher was hampered by her age in finding leading roles in Hollywood. Still, she worked non-stop for most of the rest of her life. Her films after “Cuckoo’s Nest” included “Mama Dracula”, “Dead Kids” and “The Boy Who Could Fly”.

She was nominated for an Emmy Award for her guest roles on the TV series “Joan of Arcadia” and “Picket Fences” and had a recurring role as Bajoran religious leader Kai Winn Adami on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” She played the mother of musical duo the Carpenters in 1989’s “The Karen Carpenter Story.”

Fletcher’s career was also hampered by her height. At 5-foot-10, she was often immediately dismissed from auditions because she was taller than her leading man.

Fletcher moved to Los Angeles to begin her acting career soon after graduating from North Carolina State University.

She worked as a medical receptionist by day and studied with noted actor and teacher Jeff Corey at night, and began getting day jobs on television series such as “Wagon Train,” “77 Sunset Strip,” and “The Untouchables.”

Fletcher married producer Jerry Bick in the early 1960s and gave birth to two sons in quick succession. She decided to put her career on hold to become a stay-at-home mom and didn’t work for 11 years.

“I decided to stop working, but I didn’t see it as an option,” she said in an interview in 2004. “I felt compelled to stay at home.”

She divorced Bick in 1977 and he died in 2004.

In “The Cuckoo’s Nest,” based on the novel Ken Kesey wrote while participating in an LSD experimental program, Nicholson’s character, R.P. McMurphy, a cocky, petty criminal who feigns insanity in order to be transferred from prison to a mental institution. he won’t have to work so hard.

After being institutionalized, McMurphy finds his mental ward run by Fletcher’s cold, formidable nurse Mildred Ratched, who keeps her patients firmly under her thumb. When the two clash, McMurphy almost takes over with his bravery, leading to harsh punishment from Ratched and the institution where he restores order.

The character was so memorable that it became the basis for the Netflix series “Ratched” 45 years later.

Estelle Louise Fletcher was born the second of four children on 22 July 1934 in Birmingham. Her mother was born deaf and her father was a traveling Episcopalian minister who lost his hearing when struck by lightning at the age of 4.

“It was like having parents who are immigrants who don’t speak your language,” she said in 1982.

The Fletcher children were assisted by their aunt, with whom they lived for a year in Bryant, Texas. She taught them to read, write and speak as well as sing and dance.

It was these latest studies that convinced Fletcher that he wanted to act. She once said she was further inspired when she saw the movie “Lady in the Dark” with Ginger Rogers.

Fletcher said that this and other films taught her that “your dream could become a real life if you wanted it bad enough”.

“I knew from the movies,” she said, “that I wouldn’t have to stay in Birmingham and be like everyone else.”

Fletcher’s death was first reported by Deadline.

She is survived by her two sons, John and Andrew Bick.

Most Popular Articles